The latest in a long list of players to be accused of doing steroids is Korean sensation turned American comeback darling Eric Thames. Cubs pitcher John Lackey was quoted as saying “The homer hit the other way, I mean, you don’t see that happen here very often. That’s kinda one of those things that makes you scratch your head”.
The teams pitching coach took the Lackeys coy accusation even further, saying “You start thinking about Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (Two players who used steroids)… Nobody knows who this guy is. And when he was here before, his body has changed.” These kinds of libel attacks on Thames are not new to players experiencing breakout seasons and they need to seize.
Outside observers or fans of baseball have never had more information at their hands. This information has helped them understand the moves of front offices, increase their odds in fantasy baseball and aid them in knowing more than their competitors. However if there is one thing, even with this vast wealth of information that an outside observer cannot tell is if a player is on steroids.
The last two players to be convicted of steroids use have been speedster’s Dee Gordon and Starling Marte. Gordon is one of the skinniest players in any professional sport weighing in at 5’11 150. Marte is 6’1 190, a relatively average size for a professional baseball player.
Along with the misconception that only large muscular players are on steroids, we are also faced with the confirmation bias. We know steroids make you stronger, therefore they must make you better at baseball. We have seen known steroids users, such as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have huge career years because of the drug.
In our minds this confirms that steroids make a person better at baseball. However, statistical analysis of players has shown that there has been no significant increase in a player’s output the season they are caught for steroids. There is also no decline, compared to career averages the next season when they are presumably off the drug.
As fans we should understand that we cannot tell who is on steroids by their looks or their statistical profile. If there is no evidence to go on, then it stands to reason that no outside observer can make a reasonable claim that a player is on a banned substance.
The absence of reasonable claims means there are only baseless, classless ones. I for one prefer to not defame, slander and make baseless accusations towards another. I’m sure John Lackey feels the same way, but he just had a momentary lapse in judgment. Let’s hope it was not drug induced.